8 Tips On How To Plan A Road Trip

May 08, 2024

Suze Dowling

8 Tips On How To Plan A Road Trip

Heading out on a road trip across the USA is an exploration of freedom, with endless opportunities to discover the richness of American landscapes and cultures. 

From the lively urban sprawls to the tranquil retreats within national parks, each road trip offers a unique adventure that begs to be experienced. In this guide, we’ll walk through eight essential tips to help you plan the perfect road trip, utilizing modern tools and apps to ensure every detail is covered. 

Whether you’re cruising down California’s coastlines or traversing the historic Route 66, the open road awaits!

How To Choose Your Starting Point and Final Destination

The first step? Picking your starting point and final destination, of course!

The success of your road trip hinges on defining a clear starting point and a compelling final destination. These anchor points provide structure to your journey and help you map out the route, identify key attractions, and set the overall tone of your trip. 

For instance, starting your journey on the legendary Route 66 can offer a nostalgic slice of Americana, filled with historic landmarks and classic diners that epitomize the American road trip culture. On the other hand, plotting a course toward Yellowstone might appeal to those seeking natural wonders and opportunities for outdoor adventures.

As you plan, think about the types of environments you want to explore. Do you prefer the dramatic coastlines of California, or are you drawn to the rugged landscapes of cross-country trails? Each decision will shape your road trip route, influencing the attractions and points of interest you’ll want to include in your National Park Passport

Check out apps like Google Maps and road trip planners — they can be invaluable in visualizing your route and finding those hidden gems along the way, whether they're quaint cafes, local campsites, or dazzling viewpoints. 

Utilizing the Best Road Trip Apps and Tools

You know those little devices our entire lives are on? Yep, that’s your phone! And that device can be your best friend on your journey.

Key apps have been designed specifically to aid travelers in navigating routes, locating attractions, and managing travel logistics effortlessly. 

Google Maps is indispensable for routing, offering real-time traffic updates and alternative route suggestions, which are essential for avoiding road closures and heavy traffic areas. For those looking to add a layer of discovery to their journey, Roadtrippers is a standout app, enabling users to uncover hidden gems and attractions along their path, from local diners to quirky museums.

For some added peace of mind, AAA’s mobile app provides access to roadside assistance and a host of other services that can be lifesaving in case of a breakdown or emergency. It’s also wise to have paper maps or download maps for offline use, especially when traveling through remote areas where cell service is spotty. 

Sometimes, you just want to go off the beaten path, and that’s okay with us! Let these apps serve as your guide. Leveraging these apps and tools ensures that you stay informed, safe, and ready to make the most of every mile.

How Can You Avoid Tolls and Find the Best Route?

Strategic route planning is a must! You’ll certainly want to optimize your travel time and costs, particularly when dealing with long distances across the USA. One key aspect of route planning is the ability to identify and avoid toll roads. Why? Well, they can add unexpected costs to your trips. 

Remember Google Maps? This app can also offer settings that allow travelers to customize their routes to avoid tolls, ensuring a more cost-effective journey. Similarly, you can calculate potential gas stops. Use this trusty app to locate the nearest gas stations and compare fuel prices.

Choosing the best route also involves deciding between the efficiency of highways and the scenic value of back roads. Scenic routes often provide more enriching experiences with stunning views and unique local cultures, transforming a simple drive into an unforgettable part of your road trip. 

For those drawn to the allure of the open road, you’re not alone! Plotting a path through California’s scenic drives or the majestic landscapes of America’s national parks can redefine the road trip experience. Planning your route with a mix of both direct paths and scenic byways can offer the perfect balance. This makes sure you reach your destination while still soaking in the beauty and spontaneity of the journey!

What About Scheduling and Accommodations?

Let’s go a little deeper. A well-planned road trip itinerary schedules stops and sights and strategically books accommodations to ensure smooth sailing. Early reservations are especially important during peak travel seasons or in popular destinations, such as national parks or major tourist cities in California. 

Options range from budget-friendly campsites nestled in nature to comfortable Airbnbs that offer a more local experience. Try using road trip planning tools — they can help align your travel dates with the availability of these accommodations, preventing last-minute scrambles and often securing better rates.

Consider travel times between stops, also. While it’s tempting to pack as many sights as possible into each day, realistic scheduling that allows for fun and necessary rest is important! Including extra time in your itinerary for unplanned findings or delays due to traffic and weather can also enhance the overall trip, making it more enjoyable and less rushed. 

So, What Are the Road Trip Essentials?

Packing for a road trip involves more than just throwing clothes into a suitcase (though that part can be fun!). 

Essentials include a first aid kit for unexpected injuries, jumper cables, and a spare tire, which are important for dealing with any roadside troubles. Also, you might want to pack a physical map or printed directions as backups, especially in areas known for spotty cellular reception.

For entertainment, create a playlist of favorite songs or download podcasts and audiobooks that everyone in the car can enjoy. These can be particularly valuable during long stretches of driving. Additionally, a road trip passport is perfect for jotting down memories or notable experiences. 

Lastly, don’t forget chargers for all devices, or maybe even a portable Wi-Fi router, and comfortable travel pillows and blankets to make long drives a little more bearable.

Each item on your packing list should serve a purpose, whether it's for safety, entertainment, or comfort, ensuring that your road trip remains enjoyable from start to finish. With these essentials packed, you’ll be well-equipped to handle the majority of road trip scenarios, making your adventure as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Wrapping Up the Ultimate Road Trip

Now that you can conquer the ultimate road trip, it’s time to hit the road! From selecting the perfect starting point to packing essential items, each step contributes to creating the most memorable experience. The true spirit of a road trip lies in the freedom to explore and the adventures that unfold along the way. 

Now, with these tips in hand, you’re ready to map out your next epic road trip. Start planning today and prepare to hit the road on an adventure that promises both discovery and delight. Safe travels!

Grab your road trip passport today — don’t delay documenting your adventures!


What First-Aid Items Do You Need When You Travel? | Cleveland Clinic

Tips for Safe & Stress-Free Family Travel | Healthy Children

The American Road Trip | PBS

How to Find Budget Accommodations on a Road Trip | Reader’s Digest

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